Did God "Wink" at Sin in the Old Testament?

by David J. Stewart


"Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device.  And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:" (Acts 17:29-30).  

I once heard a preacher say that the reason God allowed men to have multiple wives back in the Old Testament was because He "winked" at their sins back then.  This is a lie.  Friend, God NEVER "winks" at sin.  If you'll notice Acts 17:30, you'll find that God winked at their "ignorance," not their sins.  Cain killed Able, did God wink at it?  Certainly not; God pronounced a curse upon Cain for the sin of murdering Able, his brother.  So why should we believe that God allowed or condoned any sin in the Old Testament.  No my friend, if polygamy is sinful today, it was sinful back then as well.  Malachi 3:6 tells us that God NEVER changes, He is immutable.  If God never changes, then his hatred for sin never changes.   Cain had no Bible, he had no Law given unto him--yet he was punished for his crime against his brother.  Ignorance is no excuse of the law!  Do you know why? 

"Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;" (Romans 2:15).  

The reason why ignorance is no excuse for our sins is because we all have God's laws written in our hearts--a conscience!  Cain didn't need a Bible to tell him not to kill Able.  Cain knew murder was not acceptable.  The Apostle Paul tells us that the Law makes sin "exceedingly sinful."  This is exactly why Paul told the men of Greece that they had no excuse not to repent; They had the law and the prophets.  

So what does Acts 17:30 really mean?  What was God winking at in the Old Testament?  The word "winked" in Greek means "to overlook."  So what was God overlooking?   We read that Paul found the men of Athens worshipping God in a peculiar manner.

"For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you" (Acts 17:23). 

The Savior was a big mystery to Old Testament Saints.  They knew that the Messiah would some day come, but they were ignorant about the specifics.  Today, we have detailed information provided by the Word of God.  We have absolutely no excuse not to repent.  Oh how severe will be the judgment upon this generation for their continued rejection of the gospel and their love for sin.  With the modern technological advances, the gospel is being preached across the radio waves into every nation.  The Old Testament folks didn't have much to go on.  If they had even the simplest of faith, though based in total ignorance, God accepted that faith for salvation.  Today, we know exactly what God expects from us.  

The key issue here in Acts 17 is "ignorance," not sin.  Many people today worship foolishly as did these men in Greece; however, folks today choose to remain willingly ignorant of the truth.  I have witnessed to many Catholics who would not budge.  They refuse to break away from their family tradition.  I invited one Catholic man to church and he said he didn't want to be converted.  He has no excuse.  He knows what needs to be done, but he's afraid to step outside of the mold which his family is locked into.  How sad!  Hell will be filled with "...the fearful..." (Revelation 21:8).  So many people refuse to accept the good news of Jesus Christ and become born-again--because their families would laugh at them and reject them in many cases.  What is your soul worth friend?

"He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.  And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me" (Matthew 10:37, 38). 

So what is the Bible saying?  Was God saying that we should not love our parents?  Absolutely not!  We are commanded to honor our parents.  "Honor" primarily meaning to help them out when they're too help to care for themselves anymore.  The word "honor" means "to value."  We are to value our parents, not to abandon them.  Howbeit, Jesus was saying that our loyalty must first be to God.  If our parents and family reject Christ and His doctrine, then we are to follow after Christ and His Word regardless.  Though our family may reject us, we are to obey God rather than man.  I know a born-again man in his 40's who's mother and brother are staunch Catholics.  After a youth of wine, women and song; He finally came to Jesus Christ for forgiveness and salvation.  Now he's a Christian, living for the Lord.  He said that whenever he mentions being born-again to his mother, she becomes enraged.  She has much animosity towards true Christians.  Her son chose to become a born-again believer, regardless of what his family thought.  He put God first!  She is not ignorant, she is willfully rebellious against God's Word.  She has heard the truth and has rejected it.

So once again, let me say, God may have "winked" at ignorance in the Old Testament because of the mystery of the coming Messiah, but God did NOT wink at sin.  God killed a man in the Old Testament for simply touching the ark of the covenant.  Korah and his followers were consumed by the earth into the depths of hell when they rebelled against Moses, God's man.  No friend, God didn't play games back then.  As a matter of fact, God destroyed the entire world because of the wickedness of mankind in Noah's day.  They didn't have a Bible, only Noah, a preacher of righteousness.  The Bible tells us about all these things to warn us, to give us an example to heed (Romans 15:4).   Today, we have preaching and Bible teaching abundantly available.  People are acting as they did in Noah's day (eating, drinking and marrying without a trace of God in their lives).  Oh how grave will be the judgment on this generation.  We have the truth, yet so many people shirk it away.  More people are getting their direction in life from late-night TV, than they are from God's Word.  How sad!  

Friend, you have no excuses!  We have an over abundance of truth today.  Billionaire Ted Turner said, "Christians are losers."  I heard him say, "I look forward to going to hell because I sure deserve it."  Has he has no excuse.  How foolish and wicked is the heart of humanity.